The Story of Sea-Island cotton

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The Story of Sea-Island cotton
Series Title:
<Bulletin> New Series
Writers' Program (Fla.)
University of Florida
Florida -- Dept. of Agriculture
Place of Publication:
Tallahassee <Fla.>
State of Florida, Dept. of Agriculture
Publication Date:
Physical Description:
[vi], 58, [1] p. : ; 23 cm.


Subjects / Keywords:
Sea Island cotton -- Florida ( lcsh )
Cotton -- History ( lcsh )
Lake City ( local )
Julington Creek ( local )
Cotton ( jstor )
Crops ( jstor )
Seeds ( jstor )
government publication (state, provincial, terriorial, dependent) ( marcgt )
bibliography ( marcgt )
non-fiction ( marcgt )


Bibliography: p. [59]
General Note:
Title from cover.
General Note:
"Compiled by workers of the Writers' Program of the Work Projects Administration in the State of Florida"--p. [i]
General Note:
Sponsored by the University of Florida, Gainesville.
Statement of Responsibility:
compiled by Works Progress Administration.

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New Series

Number 113

The Story




Compiled by Works Progress

Nathan Mayo, Commissioner

in n iwiv WnS Vin vq1



Compiled by Workers of the Writers' Program
of the
Work Projects Administration
in the State of Florida

State-wide Sponsor of The Florida Writers' Project

John M. Carmody, Administrator

Howard O. Hunter, Commissioner
Florence Kerr, Assistant Commissioner
Wilbur E. Harkness, State Administrator


HISTORY -------------------------------- 1
The Family Tree ------------------------- 1
Name ---------------------------------- 2
Botany -------------------------------- 2




DECLINE OF THE INDUSTRY -------------- 31

REHABILITATION --------------------- 35

WHAT NOT TO DO -------------------------- 42

FACTS AND FIGURES --------------------- 46

CHRONOLOGY ------------------------------ 56

BIBLIOGRAPHY -------------------------- 59


The Florida Writers' Project wishes to acknowledge
with thanks the generous co-operation of the following
consultants who made valuable suggestions and additions
in the preparation of this material:
T. J. Brooks, Assistant Commissioner, Florida State
Department of Agriculture, Tallahassee.
P. W. Calhoun, Entomologist, Florida State Department
of Agriculture, Madison.
Harold Mowry, Director, University of Florida Agricul-
tural Experiment Station, Gainesville.
C. D. Tomlinson, State Supervisor, Florida Sea-Island
Cotton Project, W. P. A., Madison.
William L. Wilson, State Sea-Island Cotton Control Pro-
gram, Jacksonville.
Mildred G. Barnwell, Executive Secretary, Southern
Combed Yarn Spinners Association, Gastonia, N. C.
Jack Fayssoux, Cotton Broker, Jacksonville.
Special credit is due Rose Shepherd and Herndon
Cochran of the Writers' staff who compiled this bulle-

* Rolla A. Southworth, Carita D. Corse,
State Director, State Supervisor,
Community Service Programs Florida Writers' Project
Work Projects Administration


The Family Tree
A social history of Sea-Island cotton furnishes inter-
esting sidelights on the derivation, introduction, and cul-
tivation of this age-old commodity of world commerce.
"To find the first use of cotton by our race," says
C. W. Burkett, who has made an exhaustive study of the
subject, set forth in his book Cotton, "we shall have to
take the road to Mandalay, and go back to a time five
centuries before the birth of Christ-back to the dim past
in the land of Buddha and Brahma-and Kim; back to
the scene of the great Mahabharata, and the other leg-
endary glories of the dreamy Orient."
In the New World, cotton has been grown and used
from the distant past, as evidenced in the clothing of
Peruvian mummies, and in trophies which Cortez wrested
from Montezuma and sent to Charles V. The cotton plant
had flourished, especially in the West Indies, for many
Thus the American continents and the West Indies,
when these lands were first made known to Europe,
possessed not only both wild and cultivated cottons, but
also a cotton industry. There are no preserved botanical
specimens, drawings or descriptions of the plant or plants
seen by Columbus and his associates, and there is no
record of these plants having been conveyed to Europe.
Cotton was known and in use, but certain knowledge of
the American species was not established until approxi-
mately two centuries after the original discovery. It is
probable that species from elsewhere were early intro-
duced to America. By 1563 the slave trade was being
vigorously carried on, and many African plants-cottons
possibly among them-were conveyed to the New World.
The principal physiologist of the Bureau of Plant
Industry of the U. S. Department of Agriculture

The Story of Sea-Island Cotton

Mr. T. H. Kearney, says: "When cotton plants first at-
tracted the attention of civilized peoples, representatives
of all the main groups were already in cultivation and
probably had reached very nearly their present state of
development. Modern effort in the improvement of cotton
as of many other crop plants, has been largely a rework-
ing of the material bequeathed to us by the unknown
plant breeders of the remote past."

The derivation of the word cotton is from the French
Coton; Arabic, Qutun. In India it is known as Karpasi-
printed cotton-calico, from Calicut. The Egyptian name
is Gossypion. Magog, a town in Syria, means "cotton

In structure, cotton consists of unicellular hairs
which occur attached to the seeds of various species of
plants of the genus Gossypium, belonging to the mallow
family (Malvaceae), related to the hollyhocks and milk-
The generally recognized species may be divided
broadly into: (A) Old World or Asiatic cottons; and (B)
non-Asiatic cottons. Gossypium herbaceum, in the first
group, includes most of the Indian and Levant cottons as
well as the native Persian and Russian Turkestan types.
In this group also is Gossypium arboreum, or tree cotton.
Tree cottons are found in other sections, but the name is
usually restricted to Asiatic types, including the sacred
cotton tree of India.
Non-Asiatic cottons may be further divided into
Upland, and Peruvian. Gossypium hirsutum, in the Up-
land group, is so named because of the hairy character
of the stems, leaves and seeds of the plants. The Ameri-
can Upland is an outstanding representative of this group,

Department of Agriculture

to which also belongs Cambodia cotton. Although pos-
sibly Asiatic in origin, the most important cultivation of
cottons in this group is now in the New World. In the
Peruvian group of non-Asiatic cottons are Gossypium
barbadense, maritimum, and peruvianum. Included in
this group are Sea-Island, Egyptian, Peruvian, Caravonica
and other cottons. The exact origin of these cottons,
which supply the best lints on the market, is uncertain.
In India, cotton was at first a rain crop, i. e. a "mon-
soon" crop, and in the Old World the ideal growing con-
ditions are best secured under irrigation.
In Brazil, the cottons grown by the Indians of the
Amazon valley, as well as of the Andean valley, are va-
rieties of Gossypium barbadense; there is no tradition of
a plant having been introduced, although a truly wild
specimen is nowhere to be met with.
In 1818 Poiret (Dict. des Scien. Nat. vol. XI pp. 55-7)
stated that cottons were commercially divided into
"Island Cotton" and "Levantine Cotton"-thus referring
to the West Indies. In the Island Cottons he includes such
names as Guadeloupe, Saint Domingo, Maragnan, Cay-
enne, Surinam, and Barbados. Of these the Maragnan was
considered the best, followed in importance by Surinam,
Cayenne and Saint Domingo. It is possible that the
"Maragnan" mentioned was the first definite indication
of improvement in special races of G. barbadense.
Possibly, G. barbadense was originally cultivated in
the Antilles and during two centuries of development in-
to several distinct races its cultivation was extended to
the whole of the West Indies, to the Southern States of
North America and to Central and South America. It was
not successfully cultivated in India, Africa and Egypt.
Linnaeus founded the botanical type on the descrip-
tion and plate given by Plukenet (1642-1706)-"an an-
nual cotton with 3-lobed leaves met with in the Barba-

The Story of Sea-Island Cotton

There is little or no evidence to support the belief
that it is indigenous to Barbados, or in fact, to any of the
West Indian Islands. Its indigenous habitat is suggested
as South America.
Early in the eighteenth century planters of the West
Indies were growing Brazilian "kidney cotton" and cotton
from the lesser Antilles and Guiana, side by side. Com-
menting on this, Sir George Watt, eminent English au-
thority, assumes that "from a botanical study of the Sea-
Island plant, a cross may have been naturally accom-
plished, the progeny being recognized as a new and supe-
rior race, hence preserved and in time developed into the
Sea-Island plant as we now know it ... I am led to con-
template hybridization as a possible stage in the produc-
tion of this most valuable and largely specialized race of
It is considered that the Sea-Island plant embraces
all the higher grade cottons of G. barbadense, and it
seems highly probable that the plant G. vitifolium may
have been the original stock and G. barbadense (Linn.)
more especially G. maritimum the perfected and final de-
velopment as a cultivated plant.


Donnell, in his History of Cotton (1872), gives one
version of how the long fiber cotton was introduced into
America, quoting a letter from one Patrick Walsh to a
Dr. Meares-"I had settled in Kingston, Jamaica, some
years ago, when finding my friend, Frank Leavet, with
his family and all his negroes in a distressed situation,
he applied to me for advice as to what steps he should
take, having no employment for his slaves. I advised him
to go to Georgia and settle on some of the islands and
plant provisions until something better turned up. I sent
him a large quantity of various seeds of Jamaica .
(including) some of the Pernambuco cotton seed, of
which I sent him three large sacks, of which he made no
use but by accident. In a letter to me during the year
1789, he said: 'Being in want of the sacks for gathering
in my provisions, I shook their contents on the dung-hill,
and it happened to be a wet season; in the spring, multi-
tudes of plants covered the place. These I drew out and
transplanted them into two acres of ground, and was
highly gratified to find an abundant crop. This encour-
aged me to plant more. I used all my strength in cleaning
and planting, and have succeeded beyond my most san-
guine expectations'."
Wight, in his account, states that Sea-Island cotton
was "with much difficulty introduced into America,
owing to the shortness of the summer season Sea-
Island, indeed, could not be established until the for-
tunate occurrence of a very mild winter permitted the
roots to live through it and produce an early crop of fresh
shoots in the spring. These bore and ripened a crop, the
seed of which was found sufficiently hardy to resist the
cold of spring and matured a crop of excellent cotton in
the course of the succeeding autumn."
The Imperial Department of Agriculture in the West

The Story of Sea-Island Cotton

Indies in 1904 issued a booklet, The A. B. C. of Cotton
Planting, which contained the question, "What is Sea
Island Cotton?" Summarized, the answer given in the
booklet was "A cotton originally obtained from the West
Indies, but improved by culture in America.
In his book-Travels to the Alleghany Mountains
through Ohio, Kentucky, and Tennessee back to Charles-
ton in 1802-F. A. Michaux definitely mentions Sea-
Island cotton, which may be the first authentic and de-
tailed account. He says: "The culture of rice in the south-
ern and maritime part of the United States has greatly
diminished ... it has been in a great measure replaced by
that of cotton. ... The soil most adapted for the culture of
cotton is in the isles situated upon the coast. Those which
belong to the State of Georgia produce the best cotton
which is known in the French trade by the name of
'Georgia Cotton,' 'fine Wool,' and in England by that of
'Sea Island Cotton.' The seed of this kind of cotton is of
a deep black, and the wool fine and very long. In Feb-
ruary 1803 it sold at Charleston at Is. 8d. per pound.
The market for indigo (an important export) was
cut off in South Carolina by the Revolutionary War. The
need for a new commodity of commercial value, and the
demand of the period for the employment of slave labor,
were prime factors in the rapid development of the new-
ly introduced long staple cotton from the Bahamas in
the 1780's Already hybridized, this silky, long lint va-
riety was cultivated at first by hand with great care,
yielding results far exceeding the expectations of the
coastal planters.
Many instances are recorded of the experiences of
these pioneers in the new industry, one of whom was a
woman-Mrs. Kinsey Burden, of Beaufort, South Caro-
lina-who began the cultivation of the black-seeded cot-
ton in 1788.
In 1786 Thomas Spalding, Alexander Bisset and

Department of Agriculture

several other Georgia growers had begun experimenting
with Sea-Island cotton. The first plants were sturdy, but
did not ripen pods. By 1788, however, greater success had
been achieved in raising a crop, and in that year Bisset
exported the first bag of Sea-Island cotton grown in the
United States. The Georgia-grown plants were tall and
healthy, the seed black, and the long, silky fiber was
finer than that grown in the Bahamas.
William Elliott, of Hilton Head, South Carolina, in
1790 produced a bountiful crop from five and one-half
bushels of seed he had purchased in Charleston at 14
shillings a bushel. He obtained ten and one-half pence a
pound for his crop.
The price in South Carolina in the early days ranged
from 9 pence to a shilling a pound, then to two shillings
and more, until 1806 when war abroad caused a slump
in prices. However, large fortunes had been made. It is
reported that Peter Gaillard, of St. John's, Berkeley,
made an average of $340 a hand; and William Brisbane,
of St. Paul's, amassed sufficient wealth in two years of
growing Sea-Island cotton, to retire. Brisbane sold his
plantation to William Seabrook at an enormous price, but
Seabrook was able to pay for it within two years. Plant-
ers believed the secret of quality was in seed selection,
and soon all were experimenting in an effort to raise a
silky staple.
In 1828 Hugh Wilson sold two bags of extra fine
cotton at $2 a pound, probably the highest price ever ob-
tained for Sea-Island.
In the ten years between 1806 and 1816, the price
ranged from 25 cents to 47 cents per pound. At this time
the cotton was not graded, but was designated as "fine"
or "inferior." Stained cotton brought from 7 to 9 cents
per pound.
The extreme northern point in which Sea-Island
cotton was grown during the ante bellum period was

8 The Story of Sea-Island Cotton

Eutaw Springs, the area of cultivation extending in a
belt of coastal land from 20 to 30 miles wide southward
from the Santee River in South Carolina.


Colonists were reported to have planted cotton
seeds in Florida during the early 1600's, and even be-
fore this cotton lint had been an article of trade be-
tween tle Spanish and Portuguese colonies, and Europe.
The adaptability of Florida soil to the growth of cotton
was extolled by early officials and surveyors represent-
ing both Spain and England.
"Salt Marsh," sometimes charred, often dried, but
in most cases used as soon as it was dug, was found to
be a most satisfactory manure for the Sea-Island cotton
fields. Some planters used it in a compost, in addition to
litter from the barns and pens, and even added more
salt on occasion. One planter believed his success as a
grower of Sea-Island cotton was owing to his compost
method, and in his will he left a certain Negro to his
son because he knew how to make the compost.
Some of the marsh mud, which was also used, was
deficient in lime, and this was overcome by using crushed
oyster shells. The old indigo heaps also helped sup-
ply lime for the cotton fields. The lime had been used in
dye preparation.
During the English regime-1763 to 1783-many
Americans who received large land grants in Florida
came into the northern section and established planta-
tions. These were the pioneers from North and South
Carolina, Virginia, Tennessee, Georgia, and Alabama.
They settled in Columbia, Duval, Nassau, Leon, Jackson,
Escambia, and other counties along the Georgia border,
and ranged as far south as Alachua and Marion Coun-
The famous black seed of the Sea-Island plant was
eagerly sought by growers. Developed from its native
perennial standard by breeding and hybridization to an
annual, the plant readily adapted itself to the loamy soil

The Story of Sea-Island Cotton

and mild climate of the coastal plains sections, where
its requirements of a long growing season free from
frosts and pests were easily met.
Nature, too, conspired to make the cotton economy
of Florida a psychological opportunity. A bad freeze had
discouraged citrus producers, leaving the field of com-
petition open. Efforts were then concentrated on more
extensive cultivation of Sea-Island cotton, which became
the chief source of revenue for Florida planters, bring-
ing in many millions of dollars annually during the cen-
tury following.
In 1823 it was reported that the planters upon the
Tomoka River and its vicinity, mostly English settlers
from the Bahamas who had come to Florida to avail
themselves of a better soil, had prospered greatly and
some even had become rich by raising Sea-Island cotton.
Inland plantations developed rapidly, and the
rivers and water courses of Florida were dotted with
sailing ships carrying Florida's product to the seaports
along the Gulf of Mexico for export to foreign countries
or shipment to Northern mills.
The long staple variety produced lint up to two
inches in length. It was a marvel to the planters and
always a dependable crop. The tendency to hybridize
with the shorter staple cotton was quickly recognized,
and its complete isolation an the island plantations,
which offered the best results in cultivation, was one
reason for its rise to fame in the early days. The in-
land planters also isolated their fields of Sea-Island,
so that bees and insects did not pollenize and spoil the
The seed was particularly hard to separate from the
lint. To secure stock for planting, the seed was labo-
riously picked out by hand. Usually a special slave was
selected for this task, one whose ability for careful

Department of Agriculture

handling of the precious prize crop was known; and it
is said that a bootful of seed was considered an after-
supper's evening work for such a hand.
Sea-Island cotton possessed marvelous spinning
qualities, the best grade averaging as high as 300's or
even more, which means that from one pound of seed
cotton 150 miles of yarn could be spun. The use of this
fine yarn was, of course, confined to the very highest
grade of fabrics. They were largely used in the Notting-
ham (England) lace trade. The invention of the sewing
machine during this period created another outlet in the
form of spool cotton, or fine sewing thread. It is claimed
that the very finest grades of Sea-Island have been spun
as high as 2,000's. The Huguenots were considered the
best spinners and weavers, and after the Revocation of
the Edict of Nantes, a great many of them came to
America where they found ready employment in the
large mills.

Under date of July 18, 1840, the Pensacola Gazette
reported: "The following amount of cotton has been
shipped from the Port of Pensacola:

"1st October, 1839 to 10th, July 1840-
To New York ---------- 1,080 Bales
To New Orleans -------- 1,055 "
To Mobile ------------- 985 "

Total _------------ 3,120 Bales"

To obtain the variegated colors demanded in early
days, the Colonials of Florida made ingenious use of
different native herbs and barks:
Goldenrod mixed with indigo and alum made a
beautiful green.
Pokeberry with alum-crimson.

The Story of Sea-Island Cotton

Juice of iris-purple.
Bark of sassafras mixed with copperas-yellow.
Leaves of gallberry-good black.
Horse laurel-yellow.
Bark of black jack mixed with red maple, black
walnut, red oak, hickory and other tree barks were
also used for dyes.
A story is told of the seed which for many years
was the favorite type in demand by Florida planters:
At the World's Fair in London, Captain John
Corrie of the schooner Wanderer, a slave ship, saw a
dish containing small black seeds. Above the dish a
sign read: "Cotton raised from these seeds was spun
into a thread 150 miles long." Corrie took a handful of
the seeds as a souvenir, but was ordered to put them
back. In doing so, however, he managed to retain five
seeds in his hand, which he placed in his vest pocket.
When the last cargo of slaves was brought into the
United States, they were landed on Jekyl Island. Cap-
tain Corrie noted the cotton growing there, remembered
the seeds in his pocket, and gave them to John DuBig-
non, a Jekyl Island planter.
DuBignon planted the seeds and obtained enough
in the second year to produce a crop, but the War be-
tween the States prevented his shipping the cotton. The
bales were hidden in the near-by swamp to prevent
them falling into Union hands. At the close of the war,
they were recovered and shipped to the firm of Tison
and Gordon, Savannah, where they sold for $1.621/2 a
This firm, having been informed of the history of
the seed, realized its importance and arranged for one
of the best planters on the Carolina island to produce
for them within three years any style of cotton seed

Department of Agriculture

which they desired. The Gordon-A, a very satisfactory
seed, was produced and was in demand for years by
Florida planters. It gave good results and produced a
very fine staple.
A native Floridian, Mrs. Isabel O'Neill Barnwell,
of Jacksonville, interviewed in 1940, at the age of 86,
provides much information on the cultivation of Sea-
Island cotLon on her father's plantation in Nassau
County, near Fernandina, in days just preceding the
War between the States.
"In 1860, when I was about six years of age, I
remember going with my father, Judge James Thomas
O'Neill, to the field of Sea-Island cotton on our Nueva
Esperanza (Sp. New Hope) Plantation, a Spanish grant
dating from 1792 on the banks of Lanceford Creek (Clark
River), a tributary of the Amelia River. The tides came
in daily, and father said this had a great deal to do with
the production of fine cotton-the salt marsh and the
sea air. There were about one hundred acres in this
field, which was over two miles from the fields of up-
land cotton, so that the two could not mix by polleniza-
"On this particular September day the field was a
beautiful sight with the fleecy cotton hanging from
the open bolls, the stalks of which were like trees-
nearly ten feet tall. The bolls, five or six on a limb,
formed on the under part of the branches. I do not know
how many bolls were on a stalk, but they must have
run into several hundred.
"Father had a handful of white strips torn from an
old sheet, and he went carefully through the field, pick-
ing out the bolls with the longest lint to be preserved for
seed. On these a little colored boy who trailed him tied
one of the white strips. This cotton was picked by a
special save, usually Aunt Harriet. They formed quite
a procession-father selecting the prize bolls, little

The Story of Sea-Island Cotton

Ephraim tying on the white strings, and Aunt Harriet
placing the selected cotton in a special bag.
"The cotton was difficult to pick because it was
light and fluffy, and it had a few seeds as compared
with the short staple cotton. Father always believed the
women slaves were the best pickers, as they were more
careful and more deft in this work. Sometimes the
younger men were put in the field also, but they did
most of the cultivating which was by hand, with hoes.
I do not remember ever seeing horses with a plow in
this Sea-Island cotton field, which was under the di-
rect supervision of my father.
"One old Negro woman, Aunt Debby, was the
prize picker. She could easily pick a hundred pounds a
day which was considered fine work. Father would
speed them up by saying: 'Remember now, a dollar at
the end of the week to the one who picks the most!' and
Aunt Debby usually got the extra dollar.
"The pickers were equipped with bags of heavy
ticking, with a strap that went around the neck, the
bag hanging down over their chest. When the bags
were filled, they were emptied into a long-bedded
wagon stationed at the end of the field. When the wag-
on was filled, it was taken to the cotton house, where
other hands emptied the cotton out on the long plat-
form to dry. The cotton house was immediately north
of the 'big house' and was a long frame building about
sixty by forty feet, with the wide loading platform the
entire length of the south side. It took about six weeks
for the cotton to dry. If it was packed away damp
or green from the fields, it would mold, and this had to
be avoided. There were always plenty of hands around
to remove the cotton inside quickly to the floor of the
cotton house in case of sudden showers, and it was al-
ways taken in at night.
"The bags of seed cotton were turned over to an-

Department of Agriculture

other old Negro mammy, Aunt Polly, who served the
family in her younger days as nurse (there were eleven
children in our family, of which I was the youngest),
and she carefully removed the precious black seed, a
slow and laborious task. After drying, the seeds were
placed in stout cotton bags and plainly marked as to
quantity and season, and removed to the storeroom back
of the family kitchen until needed the following year
for planting.
"Father never allowed any of his sons or foremen
to handle the Sea-Island culture-this was his special
hobby and under his own personal care. He selected the
hands to plant, cultivate, and pick the crop. The seed
he also personally selected in the manner described.
Under his care, Nueva Esperanza Plantation had the
reputation of producing the finest Sea-Island cotton in
Nassau County.
"My father and mother went to live at Nueva
Esperanza when they were first married in 1832, and
as he was of South Carolina lineage, he probably re-
ceived his first instructions and seed stock from some of
his Newberry, South Carolina, relatives.

"In the spring, the cotton seed was planted between
the middle of February and the first of April. The seeds
were dropped by hand-five seeds in a hill, covered
with two or three inches of dirt, the hills two feet apart
in rows about six feet apart. Between the rows, every
ten feet, pumpkin seed were planted. When the pump-
kins matured in this Lanceford Creek salt marsh field-
and I have seen some two and three feet long with ripe
yellow meat-they were cut up and fed to the cattle and
hogs. They were considered an easily raised and very
fattening food.
"When the cotton shoots came up, the hills were
hoed and rounded up. In two weeks they were hoed
again. At the third hoeing, the plants were thinned out,

The Story of Sea-Island Cotton

the two best and sturdiest stalks being retained in the
hill, so that as they grew taller they could bolster each
other .n case of strong winds or storms and not break
down. The field was taken care of until the bolls formed
in the summer, the weeds were kept down, and the
pumpkin vines which grew luxuriantly covered the
ground and formed a protecting shelter around the
roots. There were never any plows used in cultivating
the Sea-Island cotton, after the initial breaking of the
ground in the early spring. The cotton began to ma-
ture about the middle of July, and the picking took
place from August to November.

"At the time of which I speak, my father owned
ninety-one slaves. Their work was very carefully ap-
portioned. In hoeing and planting, it was half an acre of
ground as a day's work. In picking cotton, the task was
100 pounds of the Sea-Island, and 200 or more of the
upland, according to the crop. When a hand finished his
allotted task, he was free to go to his cabin, one of a
group of thirty ranging along the cove on Lanceford
Creek near the 'big house,' where each family had its
own plot of ground in the back and could cultivate
vegetables, also keep a cow and pigs, if they were
energetic. There were fish, crabs, and oysters in the
creek. When the tide came in, the darkies had great
times fishing and crabbing, or they could swim and
sport around in the water; often there were rowing
races. These attracted the white folks--members of
the family and guests, of which there were always from
two to ten.
"The upland cotton was ginned in the cotton house,
but the Sea-Island was always carefully picked by hand,
as in ginning sometimes the seeds were crushed.
"I have seen $20,000 worth of cotton stored in the
cotton house at one time. It was shipped at the end of
the season right from our own wharf on the river which

Department of Agriculture

was quite deep then, in sailing vessels to Villalonga and
Son, cotton brokers, of Savannah, Georgia. At the be-
ginning of the War between the States, Mr. Villalonga
was slow in getting rid of our cotton, or perhaps the
blockade by the Federals made it impossible to get it out
of the country. At any rate, when Sherman reached Sa-
vannah on his famous 'march to the sea,' the Villalonga
warehouse went up in flames the first night of the raid,
with $50,000 worth of cotton on consignment' stored
"After the cotton on our place was shipped, the cot-
ton house was cleaned thoroughly, swept and washed,
and here in the late fall we used to have big parties and
dances. The floors were of handhewn hardwood lumber,
and were highly polished by the oil from the cotton.
"In preparation for merchandising, the cotton was
packed in large bags containing three to four hundred
pounds, with a handful stuffed in the corners and tied,
making little 'ears.' When the baled cotton was loaded
for shipment, four Negro men-one at each corner, hold-
ing one of the 'ears'-swung it on board the vessel. In
the late 1850's, when the Cedar Keys Railroad was placed
in operation, the cotton was transported by the farm
wagons to O'Neill Station, located on our plantation, and
loaded on the 'flats' (flat cars) for shipment to northern
points, principally through Savannah.
"When the Federal gunboats appeared in Fernan-
dina harbor in 1862, our family, with the exception of
four sons and three sons-in-law who had enlisted in the
Confederate service, gathered together what provisions
and clothing we could in the limited space of four hours,
and with the 91 slaves refugee to Hamilton County, near
White Springs, where father bought a plantation of a
thousand acres, naming it 'Rebels' Refuge' because it
sheltered so many homeless residents of northern Flor-
ida, and here we lived without molestation anl in com-
parative comfort for the duration of the War. When the

The Story of Sea-Island Cotton

conflict ended, we returned to Nueva Esperanza, finding
it looted of all furniture, including a heavy grand piano.
A palatial rowboat, used only a short time, which had
been ordered specially from Lord and Taylor's in New
York, also had disappeared. We never found any trace
of any of these things.
"The loss of slaves was a terrible blow to Southern
planters, who found it impossible to cultivate the large
plantations without them. Everybody was so poor that
hands could not be hired. As an emergency measure, fa-
ther developed quite an industry in garden truck, for
which there was a ready demand in the North. But as
east and south Florida sections were opened up, with
their earlier maturing crops, the north Florida market
was killed. Gradually the old plantation went back to na-
ture. It is still in the hands of the family, the old ante
bellum home still standing and the land overgrown with
scrub palmettoes and pine."
During the 1800's and up to the period of the War
between the States, there were busy scenes at the ship-
ping ports-Pensacola, Apalachicola, Port St. Joe, Cedar
Keys-and in the interior at the little port of Middleburg
on Black Creek, in Clay County, which was the shipping
port for all points east of the Suwannee River from the
Georgia border down. As the bales of cotton were loaded
into the holds of sailing vessels, the chanting of the "cot-
ton packin" song lent zest with rhythm to the movements
of the dock men and loaders.
The bales ranging along the wharf were picked up
on a large hook let down by a derrick, a Negro kneeling
on the bale to balance it and keep it from sliding off the
hook. The hook and its cargo ascended slowly to the
deck, then down through the hatch. Here the bale was
removed by the packers, and the hook with the Negro
hanging on was maneuvered back to pick up another
bale, and so on. In the hold of the ship, a gang-usually

Department of Agriculture

five to ten men-according to the quantity to be loaded,
"stowed" away the cotton, using large iron screws to
wedge the bales in tightly and compactly. A "header" or
"head man" directed the work which required precision
and skill, as well as strength. To work in unison meant
singing, to the Negro. The sharp high cry of "heh!" em-
phasized the powerful twisting of the screws by the
rhythmic muscular movements of the singers.
Screw dis cott'n, heh!
Screw dis cott'n, heh!
Screw dis cott'n, heh!
Screw it tight, heh!
In the 1830's St. Joseph had the reputation of being
the busiest and most important Florida port, with such
prosperity following that "town lots sold at fabulous
prices; two railroads were built, one from Lake Wimico,
the other from Iola. Palatial mansions, brick office build-
ings, and warehouses were constructed. The harbor be-
came a forest of spars and masts, as vessels crowded the
port to take on vast cargoes of cotton, carrying away
100,000 to 150,000 bales annually." Apalachicola, anoth-
er large port, shipped 50,000 bales a year.
It was with some trepidation that Florida planters
brought the cultivation of Sea-Island cotton inland. The
geographic position of Florida, however, with water on
three sides, and especially the proximity of the Gulf
Stream, has been thought to exert some great influence
on the quality if not the quantity of the staple. Some of
the inland counties became great centers of Sea-Island
cotton production. In this climate, the staple was pro-
duced of such length and fineness that it was capable of
being "converted into hand and sewing thread from No.
8 to No. 1.000: into the most beautiful laces; and so deft-
ly woven into the finest silks, satins, and velvets that only
the best experts can tell it."
Alachua County became famous for its fine Sea-

The Story of Sea-Island Cotton

Island cotton, as did Bradford, Marion, and Levy Coun-
ties. One of Florida's well-known planters, William
Bailey, reputedly the owner of 1,500 slaves, and operat-
ing five large plantations in north-central Florida, in
1856 established a textile mill at Monticello that was a
boon to the cotton planters. The company that General
Bailey organized-the Southern Rights Manufacturing
Company-was operated by and for the benefit of its
stockholders, co-planters and business associates.
The following excerpts from Dickison and his Men
tell graphically of the struggle of the east Florida section
to keep and conceal its stores of cotton, and the deter-
mined efforts of the Federals to locate and confiscate
them during the War between the States:
"East and South Florida has been saved by the Bat-
tle of Gainesville-Newnansville (May 1864) Had the
plan of the Federals been carried out, as disclosed by the
captured orders among other successes, several thousand
bales of fine Sea-Island cotton would have been seized."
After a skirmish in St. Johns County the latter part
of August 1864, "the wagon train of ten large wagons,
each with six mules and horses, with best equipment, all
loaded with Sea-Island cotton that had been stolen at
Braddock's farm, were taken."
In April and May 1864, in Volusia, St. Johns, and
Duval Counties-"an account of General Birney's raid
states that at Mosquito Inlet, two blockade runners and
a large quantity of cotton were captured, at Smyrna.
From here north to St. Augustine, and from there to
Jacksonville within ten days, the result was five thou-
sand cattle and a large amount of cotton. At Garden
Spring, nineteen bales of Sea-Island cotton, and as much
more still unginned, were seized. At Welaka also a quan-
tity of cotton was taken.
"A short time after the Birney raid, Capt. Dickison
captured the Governor Milton which had been taken by

Department of Agriculture

the enemy at Black Creek, and was making for Jackson-
ville loaded with cotton, unprotected by gunboats."
Until 1870, Sea-Island cotton was a staple crop of
Florida. It was estimated that for fourteen successive
years one Alachua plantation had produced four hun-
dred pounds of Sea-Island cotton an acre without the aid
of manure, and in other sections the average ran from
two hundred and fifty to three hundred pounds an acre,
the ordinary cost of production being roughly estimated
at $35 an acre.
Near Newnansville, in Alachua County, Theopilus
Weeks, in 1860, raised 17,000 pounds of Sea-Island seed
cotton, equal to 4,250 pounds of lint cotton upon ten acres
of land. In Cedar Keys territory, the crop was estimated
to average from one hundred to two hundred and fifty
pounds an acre.
The average yield before the war was estimated at
2,000 pounds a hand, but frequently, on well cultivated
plantations, 3,000 to 4,000 pounds a hand was produced.
The price at this time ranged from 35 cents to $1.25 a
pound for the Sea-Island variety, and short staple from
18 to 40 cents.

A booklet issued in 1883 by the Columbia County
Immigration Association, of Lake City, stated that "in
1882, during October, November, and December there
were shipped out of Lake City, 3,016 bales of Sea-Island
cotton." And further on-"In the way of raw materials
Columbia County can offer superior advantages in the
quality and quantity of her long staple cotton fibre, in her
cotton seed, and in a very considerable quantity of up-
land cotton." Also-"one merchant in Lake City last
winter bought fifteen hundred and sixty bales of Sea-
Island cotton, which may be safely estimated at one
hundred dollars a bale, aggregating one hundred and
fifty-six thousand dollars, which will give an idea of the
magnitude of the commercial interest of the town of Lake

The Story of Sea-Island Cotton

City, where there were four thousand or more bales of
Sea-Island cotton bought and shipped by our merchants
last year."
In Orange County in the 1850's it was reported that
outstanding leaders were moving in from other South-
ern States, "many of them bringing their slaves and cat-
tle. Large tracts of land were cleared and Sea-Island cot-
ton as king held imperial sway. Orange County long
staple had a high reputation in the market for fineness
and length of fibre. The usual yield was a three hun-
dred and thirty-three pound bale from three acres of
land South, east, and west of Lake Lucerne cotton
fields stretched far and wide on every side."
Fort George Island, in Duval County, near the
mouth of the St. Johns River, settled by Zephaniah
Kingsley, a noted slave-trader, "had rich, genial soil that
imparts great quality value to its products. It was famous
before the war for the production of some of the finest
long-fibre cotton in the world," a reputation it enjoyed
for nearly a century.
In her book Palmetto Leaves, Mrs. Harriet Beecher
Stowe, then a resident of Mandarin, tells a plaintive story
of cotton raised in that section, under the title of "Cudjo
and the Angel:"
"The little wharf at Mandarin is built so far out
that one feels there as in a boat at sea. Here come
the goods which at this point await shipment on some of
the many steamers which ply back and forth upon the
river (St. Johns).
"One morning as the Professor and I were enjoying
our morning stroll on the little wharf, an unusual sight
met our eyes-a bale of cotton, long and large, pressed
hard and solid as iron, and done up and sewed in a
wholly workmanlike manner, that excited our surprise.
It was the first time ... in Mandarin-we had been there
a space of some four or five years-that we had ever seen

Department of Agriculture

a bale of cotton on that wharf. Yet the whole soil of east
Florida is especially adapted not only to the raising of
cotton, but of the peculiar long staple cotton which com-
mands the very highest market-price ...
"Standing by the bale on the wharf was an aged
Negro-black as night itself. To him spoke the Professor:
'Why, this is splendid cotton. Where did it come from?
Who raised it?'
'We raised it, suh, me'n dis yere boy'-pointing to
a middle-aged black.
"A lounging white man here interposed: 'Oh,
this is old Cudjo. He lives up Julington (Creek).'
"Now, we had heard of the settlement up Julington
Creek, (boundary line between Duval and St. Johns
counties), some two or three weeks before. A party of
Negroes from South Carolina and Georgia had been in-
duced to come into Florida and take up a tract of govern-
ment land. Some white man had undertaken for them the
task of getting their allotments surveyed and entered.
While the native Floridian farmer supposed that a stam-
pede of Negroes from Georgia and South Carolina meant
trouble for them yet they made no demonstration
against it.
"Old Cudjo had at last brought his land from the
wild embrace of the snaky scrub palmetto to the point
of bearing a bale of cotton. He had subdued the savage
earth, brought her under, and made her tributary to his
will, and demonstrated what the soil of East Florida
might, could, and would do, the cottonworm-the ravages
of which for years past had been so discouraging that
the culture of cotton had been abandoned in despair-
to the contrary, notwithstanding.
"Because the white man had done his work in such a
slovenly imperfect manner another foreigner had

The Story of Sea-Island Cotton

taken up a tract which passed right through Cudjo's
farm, and taken the land, his log cabin, barn, young
trees, and the very piece that had just brought to bear-
ing that bale of cotton.
"Now, old Cudjo was making the best of it trying to
ship his bale of cotton, which was all that was left of
four years' toil. Later old Cudjo was reinstated in his
rights to his possession of his farm on Julington
In 1882 it was reported in Volusia County: To the
south of St. Augustine, there is some very good land,
which though having in some places the poor appearance
of beach sand, yet produces cotton of the finest quality,
equaling in firmness and length of staple, the best Sea-
Island cotton, and surpassing the latter in silkiness and
texture, so that it has commanded five cents more per
pound than the cotton of St. Simons, in the markets of

In this era it was estimated that Florida produced
half of the world's supply of Sea-Island cotton. One large
shipper of the long staple located in Gainesville was
awarded the gold medal at the Paris Exposition in 1900
on Aalchua-grown cotton for the "Highest Award Merit"
as to length, strength, and fineness of the lint for its ex-
hibit in competition with long staple cotton from all over
the world.

Florida also received gold medals and special no-
tices of excellence at various expositions-Philadelphia,
Chicago, Atlanta, and New Orleans, and was favorably
known to manufacturers of the United States, as well as
to the famous lace manufacturers and knitting mills of

According to the Liverpool Cotton Association's an-
nual circular to the trade, Florida raised from 1882 to
1913, 869,362 bales of Sea-Island cotton of 400 pounds

Department of Agriculture

each, a considerable portion of the world's supply for
these years.

The following tabulation compiled by the Florida
Department of Agriculture in 1902 gives a picture of the
Sea-Island cotton situation at that time:

Section Number of Bales Value

Alachua County 3,462 $252,655
Baker 1,263 87,459
Bradford 3,224 225,640
Calhoun 1,133 19.930
Clay 422 6.629
Ccoumbia 4,025 252,583
Hamilton 4.434 309.740
Marianna 1.031 51,550
Monticello 330 16.810
Lafayctte 915 55,245
Levy 563 35,643
Madison 3,433 225,411
Marion 1,462 104.926
Putnam 155 9,312
Sumter 81 7,123
Suwannee 5,234 452,540
Taylcr 1,289 87,557

The Story of Sea-Island Cotton

The U. S. Census gives the following figures on the production of
Sea-Island cotton covering the years 1900 to 1931:

United States FLORIDA
Year Number Number Prices received No. Active
Bales Bales by producers Gins in Fla.
1900 88,294 28,066
1901 77879 27,765
1902 104.753 31963 $2.36,966.40 297
1903 73.393 27.40 2.433,611.69 273
1904 104.317 39,619 2,62.113.57 279
1905 112.317 41,531 2,744,095.90 292
1906 57,550 23,995 2,587,638.00 276
1907 86.895 28.935 2,648,689.00 259
1908 93,858 34,755 2,320,000.00 258
1909 94.751 28,158 2,277,000.00 252
1910 90.348 29,417 3,000,000.00 275
1911 119.293 41,270 276
1912 73,777 23,334 1,570,000.00 247
1913 77563 25,587 1,760,000.00 221
1914 81.654 33,622 1,917,000.00 220
1915 91.44 28,094 2.304.100.00 203
1916 117,559 36,092 3,251,197.00* 181
1917 92.619 37,327 6,074,632.00* 163
1918 52.208 20,571 3,173,632.00* 149
1919 6,916 2,787 376,744.00* 93
1920 1,868 1.236 83,551.00* 87
1921 3.327 2,573 73
1922 5.125 4,886* 84
1923 785 68
1924 11 65
1925 18 67
1926 23 67
1927 179 53
1928 22 55
1929 7 63
1930 20 54
1931 26 54
*Beginning with 1916. valuation is based on average price per
pound received for all cotton, and not for Sea-Island only. Price for
Sea-Island subsequent to 1916, not available. Valuation for years 1918-
1920 was computed by taking the number of pounds of Sea-Island pro-
duced in Florida for each year and multiplying by the average price
paid to Florida growers for the corresponding year. The Sea-Island
crop in Florida in 1916 was approximately two-thirds of the total crop,
and in 1918 it was more than half.
**No record for number of bales produced in Florida after 1922.


The Negro, with his natural bent for music, his loose-
jointed body adapted for rhythm and quick changes of
tempo, often composed and sung "jumped-up" songs, that
is, those composed on the spur of the moment to fit the
task he was doing, and this class of work songs became
popular with the slaves and workers before and after the
War between the States.
While no regular movement can be followed in the
picking of cotton, yet if the worker sings in fast time--
like two-two tempo-with words following light and
gay, he will naturally work faster. One of the well-
known "cotton-pickin' songs-"Pick a Bale of Cotton,"
was a conglomeration of unbelievable statements, but its
lilting tune made the words unimportant, and its very
lightness raised the worker's morale and accelerated his
Jump down, turn around ,
Pick a bale of cotton,
Jump down, turn around ,
Pick a bale a day.

Oh, Julie!
Pick a bale of cotton,
Oh, Julie!
Pick a bale a day.
The chorus was sometimes sung after each of the
many verses.
A lively "choppin' cotton song ran:
Looky Yonder, Where De Sun Done Gone
I can't hold 'em (keep on working, stick it out)
I can't hold 'em,
I can't hold 'em,
No way I do.

The Story of Sea-Island Cotton

Looky, looky yonder
Looky, looky yonder,
Looky, looky yonder,
Where de sun done gone.
Nigger lick 'lasses,
Nigger lick 'lasses,
Nigger lick 'lasses,
An' de white folks lick 'em, too.
I wonder what's de matter,
I wonder what's de matter,
I wonder what's de matter,
Wid de two-nineteen.*

This lively song of innumerable verses originated in
the west Florida cotton fields where its singer, old Terrell
Ledbetter, used to sing it as he chopped cotton. He later
took it to prison with him when he got in trouble with a
Texas law, and "buck-jumped" to the music of it. Cover-
ing the grass and weeds on the cotton rows with dirt, in-
stead of chopping up each sprout is known as "buck-
jumping." It saves the cotton chopper a great amount of
time and energy!
Another Florida song was "Cotton Want A-Pickin"
the origin of which is traced to the days following eman-
cipation, when colored hands were hired by planters on
contract and "share" basis. The song had many verses.
The chorus and three of the verses follow:

Cotton Want A-Pickin'
One twenties (twentieth) of May mo'nin',
Under dat barnyard tree,
Dem Yankees read dem papers,
An' set dem darkies free.
*A Negro man in a field near a railroad tells time by the trains
that pass In this case, the hot afternoon drags slowly on; he is sure it
is 3 o'clock, yet the 2:19 has not passed.

Department of Agriculture

Dis cotton want a-pickin' so bad,
Dis cotton want a-pickin' so bad,
Dis cotton want a-pickin' so bad,
Gwine clean all ober dis farm.

's been working' in er contract,
Eber sence dat day,
An' jes found out dis yar (year)
Why hit (it) didn't pay.

When Boss sold dat cotton,
I ask fer my half,
He tol' me I chopped out
My ha'f wid de grass.

The "Cotton Dance Song" popularized by the Flor-
ida Negro seems a companion, or a spirited climax to
the "CoLtton Pickin' piece. As a fitting background for
the end of the cotton season, when the cotton was picked,
hauled to the scales and weighed, and packed in the cot-
ton house, it was time for a celebration.
The Negroes broke into a jubilant dance, forming a
rough circle, with the dancer in the center. It is said this
song is still popular with Florida Negroes, although its
origin reaches back to slavery days. It begins with
"Massa's" emphatic command, "0 Massa said from firs'
to las'," the next line epitomizes the work of the cotton
fields, for after the seed is planted in rows from three to
six feet apart, each plant comes up as two little leaves;
then the man or woman must take a hoe and weed out all
but two stalks which must be about eighteen inches and
a half apart. Also the weeding must include "All de
O Massa said from firs' to las',
Way down in de cotton fiel'
Eighteen inches and a ha'f,
Way down in de cotton fiel'

30 The Story of Sea-Island Cotton

Two stalks and all de grass,
Way down in de cotton field'
So much a day, dat's yo' task,
Way down in de cotton fiel'
In additional stanzas of this song their apparel is
described-breeches of duck of a gray color, very strong,
sometimes with narrow pin stripes, and sometimes cut
short to the knees; "baggin' sacks" are the sacks worn
at the side to hold the cotton as it is picked; "red ripper"
is a red ribbon-probably a necktie. Such a song is never
a conscious composition-the lines are shouted out as
they come into the singers' minds.


Several factors were active in the decline of Sea-
Island cotton production in Florida from its peak in
1905-41,531 bales, with an estimated market return of
$2,744,095.90-to another high in 1917-37,327 bales
with returns of $6,074,632, due to expanding market and
higher prices prevailing at that time-down to the low
period of 1929 when only seven bales were produced in
the entire coastal plains section of South Carolina, Geor-
gia, and Florida.
In Florida, the old pre-war plantations, which in-
corporated in their money crops five hundred acres or
more of Sea-Island cotton, were being divided up into
small farms, where fifty to one hundred acres was the
normal allotment. The Florida citrus industry, started
commercially in the 1870's, was being developed rapidly
and as the railroad arterials penetrated the peninsula-
south central, and west-Florida truck crops of the east
coast and ridge sections of the State, with their early ma-
turity developing out-of-season demands in northern mar-
kets-drew the attention of small farmers. As a result,
cotton-long the "king" of Florida cash crops-began its
slow demise.
Another untoward factor was the demoralizing of
the export demand during the first World War; and
finally, the exodus of the young farmers of Florida to
the military training camps and the subsequent partici-
pation in the American Expeditionary Force to France
in 1918.
But the nemesis of "King Cotton" was an enemy far
more insidious than war or a falling market-the boll
weevil. The large, soft bolls of the Sea-Island cotton were
more susceptible to infestation than were other varieties,
and the long growing season required for maturity gave
the grub ampl-opportunity to grow and multiply until
devastation was complete.

The Story of Sea-Island Cotton

The pest was first noticed in Florida in 1915, arriv-
ing by migratory flights from infested areas further west,
where its peregrinations had covered a wide territory. It
had been observed in Vera Cruz, Mexico as early as 1843.
and had reached western Texas by 1892, where alarming
damage was reported. At that time, the United States
Bureau of Entomology sent C. H. T. Townsend to inves-
tigate, and also advised Texans that a belt should be
established along the Rio Grande in which the cultivation
of cotton should be prohibited, and thus cut off the ad-
vance of the insect. Texas planters did not accept this
suggestion, however, and in 1895 the boll weevil was
found in San Antonio and as far east as Wharton. By
1898, it became apparent that other States were threat-
As a phase of the early attempts to study and formu-
late methods of controlling the insect, the United States
Government sent E. A. Schwartz to Cuba to investigate
conditions there. Schwartz found the Santa Clara prov-
ince infested with boll weevils. Cuban planters had dis-
regarded the pests, as the cultivation of cotton had been
generally discontinued for many years. (Better cotton
prices have since induced Cuban planting on a large scale.
An interesting paradox, West Indian and Puerto Rican
planters, in attempting the rehabilitation of Sea-Island
cotton, sent to Florida and Carolinas for seed of the long
staple which they had helped to establish in the United
States a century before.)
Schwartz determined that weevils did not spread to
wild plants from cultivated cotton raised from planted
seed, as at first supposed, but from the former to the
latter. The weevils were found to be more numerous in
the "kidney cotton" (wild species) than the loose cot,
ton (seminella). The latter was found to be free of wee-
vils when growing alone, but when growing near the
kidney cotton it was liable to be infested. Numerous wild
cotton trees growing close to dwellings or at a distance

Department of Agriculture

from habitations were usually infested, but never as bad-
ly as specimens of the cultivated Egyptian variety.

A study of the habits of the boll weevil is interesting
as a side-light on its determined path of destruction of
the famous Sea-Island product. The female eats into a
square or boll and lays her egg in the cavity. In a few
days the egg hatches. The grub starts feeding, making
more room for itself as it grows. While growing, the skin
is shed by the larva three times at least, the third time
being when the pupa is formed. This sheds its skin after
a few days, and the result is a boll weevil. Two or three
weeks are required for the immature stages, and about
another week for reproductive maturity. The color of the
boll weevil varies greatly as does the size, but is ordi-
narily gray or yellow-brown, and more yellow in the larg-
est ones. The average size is one-third of an inch in
length, one-third as broad, and about one-fourth grain
in weight.

No other food has been found which will attract
weevils from squares and no plant but cotton upon which
they can sustain themselves for any considerable length
of time.

It is well known that insects which have not many
food plants generally attack only closely related plants
which belong to the same botanical family. Hibiscus of
several varieties, and okra were used for feeding, but the
weevils starved. Pigweed, ragweed, sunflower, grass and
weeds which grow around cotton fields were tried, but
feeding was observed only when the weevils were sup-
plied with pieces of sorghum (stems) cut and split, so
juice could be readily obtained. They would not puncture
to obtain juice as was necessary in the field.

In 1908 after careful search, Mr. Schwartz conclud-
ed: "There is not the slightest doubt, in my opinion, that
the original and only food plants of the boll weevil are

34 The Story of Sea-Island Cotton

the varieties of Gossypium, and here in Cuba, the variety
known as "kidney cotton."
In a series of tests as to weevil feeding on cotton-
seed meal fresh from the oil mills, the weevils starved to
death in from two to thirteen days, rather than eat the
meal, or because they could not eat it. Another test was
made with leaves. During this time, only one died, the
period being 297 "weevil days" and the results prove that
the leaves were the reason for the longer life. In another
test, squares freshly picked were used along with the
meal. The weevils ate the squares.


The heaviest producing area of Sea-Island cotton
in Florida embraced what is now known as Alachua,
Bradford, Union, Baker, Columbia, Gilchrist, Suwannee,
Hamilton and Madison counties. Considerable amounts
were produced in Marion, Levy, Dixie, Lafayette, Taylor
Jefferson, and Jackson counties, with some in Nassau,
Gadsden, Calhoun, Washington, and Holmes counties.

By 1924 the ravages of the boll weevil had so dis-
couraged Florida cotton farmers that production of Sea-
Island cotton had practically ceased, and any efforts at
all towards the raising of cotton were confined to sporad-
ic cultivation of the upland, of which there are ap-
proximately three thousand named varieties, and such
strains of American Egyptian (Pima) as are adapted to
Florida soil.

For the next decade this situation prevailed in Flor-
ida, but it was inevitable that cotton brokers and buyers,
negotiating for the purchase of each season's available
supply, should come in contact with some of the older
farmers who remembered the bounteous crops and the
splendid returns in the heyday of Sea-Island production.

In the preceding ten years, the item had been
dropped from Florida's agricultural economy-in fact,
from that of all the former coastal plains sections.

Growers declared they would be interested in an at-
tempt to revive the Sea-Island cotton industry, provided
there was a market for their crops. They were told that
manufacturers would co-operate as in the past if assured
of a continuous supply of lint; that they preferred the
higher grade cotton, but mill machinery would have to
again be adjusted to handle the long staple yarn, an op-
eration too expensive for frequent changing.
In June 1934 it was proved that a market did exist,

The Story of Sea-Island Cotton

for the New Orleans Cotton Trade Journal published the
following item:
"Sale of what was thought to be the last large
shipment of Sea-Island cotton was made by Jack C.
Fayssoux, cotton broker of Jacksonville, when 256
bales of the long staple were purchased at New
Orleans for a New England firm. Most of the cotton
handled by Fayssoux was over fifteen years old, and
some of the bales were estimated to have been as
much as twenty-five years old."
Encouraged by this news, farmers obtained seed and
planted small acreages with most satisfactory results.
Finally, through the efforts of Nathan Mayo, Florida
Commissioner of Agriculture, William L. Wilson, his
assistant, George D. Smith, entomologist, and W. F. Love
of Trenton, the Federal Department of Agriculture be-
came interested.
Meanwhile, Commissioner Mayo made an extensive
search for genuine Sea-Island cotton seed, discovering
that the only known supply was held by the United States
Department of Agriculture. Following the decadence of
Sea-Island cotton culture in Florida, (1923-1924), the
government agricultural agents had grown a limited
amount off the South Carolina-Georgia coast to make
sure that this cotton would not pass out of existence. At
the same time, careful selection and improvement of the
Sea-Island cotton strain had been carried on.

Of the 62 bushels of seed available, 50 bushels of
one strain were sent to Mr. Mayo and 12 bushels of an-
other strain to Dr. Wilmon Newell, Director of the Agri-
cultural Experiment Station of the University of Florida,
at Gainesville. The Florida Experiment Station, co-
operatively with the Bureau of Plant Industry, U.S.D.A.,
has for several years maintained, through isolated
plantings, seed stocks of pure strains, thus providing a
reservoir of highest quality seed for commercial planting.

Department of Agriculture

In addition, these agencies are conducting breeding and
testing of new varieties and strains on a comprehensive
Through the efforts of the Bureau of Entomology and
Plant Quarantine, U. S. D. A., improved methods of boll
weevil control are being devised and tested.
In the first place, opportunity was given the farmers
in the former well-known Sea-Island cotton production
area to voice their reaction by a "Yes" or "No" vote in
the regular county elections and to signify their willing-
ness to cooperate in the plan by specifying the acreage
they would plant.
Mr. Mayo and his assistants decided that the attempt
to restore Sea-Island cotton should be made at once, and
accordingly, Senate Bill No. 479-known as the "Florida
Sea-Island Cotton Law"-was passed by the 1935 ses-
sion of the Florida Legislature.
Described as "an Act to promote the planting and
production of Sea-Island cotton; in the exercises of the
reserved powers of the State of Florida to provide pro-
tection for growers and producers of such cotton against
hybridization and reduction of value thereof; to that end
providing for cotton production control districts; pro-
hibiting the production in said districts, of any type of
cotton other than Sea-Island cotton; also prohibiting the
planting therein of any type of cotton seed or plants oth-
er than the Sea-Island cotton seed or plants; providing
for the administration and enforcement of the provisions
hereof; making an annual appropriation for the purpose
of carrying out the provisions hereof; providing penal-
ties and punishment for violation of the provisions here-
In view of the fact that Sea-Island cotton will not
maintain its quality or length of staple when grown in
the vicinity of other types of cotton, provision was in-
corporated "to secure pure seed of the best strain, and

The Story of Sea-Island Cotton

to plant these seed as far as possible from other types."
To combat this tendency to hybridize, resulting in a
mongrel cotton of shorter staple and less market value,
and to obviate the conflict of interests between farmers
who wished to raise Sea-Island cotton and those who
wished to continue the production of the short staple
types, a provision of the bill was to "establish cotton pro-
duction control districts," whenever residents of any
territory containing not less than one hundred contiguous
square miles of reasonably compact shape, within any
county of the State desire to have such territory consti-
tuted into a cotton production control district, "they shall
present to the Board of County Commissioners of said
county, a petition signed by not less than ten per cent of
the duly registered voters, who are free-holders, residing
within the territory-the petition to describe the metes
and bounds, or other accurate descriptions of said terri-
The Commissioner of Agriculture was given the pow-
er to certify the districts, and the matter was voted on in
regular order by the registered voters of the districts
specified. The Commissioner was further given all the
powers to enforce and carry out the various provisions
of the Act.
On February 28, 1935 Commissioner Mayo was in
possession of a quantity of the Sea-Island cotton seed suf-
ficient to plant one thousand acres.
The seed was known as Seabrook S. I.-36-12B2,
and was planted in isolated fields near Quincy, Gaines-
ville, Leesburg, and other sections, with a view of build-
ing up a seed supply available to farmers who might de-
cide to take advantage of the cotton production control

The Works Progress Administration, which had been
enlisted to carry out certain features of the plan, in 1935
established the Sea-Island Cotton Project at Madison,

Department cf Agriculture

with G. D. Smith, entomologist, as supervisor. Mr. Smith,
formerly of the U. S. Bureau of Entomology, established
what became known as the "Boll Weevil Cocktail Hour"
-the afternoon method of poisoning for weevil control.
It had been discovered that all the over-wintered
boll weevils entering the fields to deposit eggs for the
first weevil generation could be killed by taking advan-
tage of their thirst, using a poisoned syrup mixture as a
After two years of successful weevil control in
Madison County, State-wide weevil poisoning programs
were set up for 1937, and later for 1938 and 1939. The
WPA furnished the labor, the State Department of Agri-
culture provided the poison and syrup, and the Agricul-
tural Extension Service, through its county agents, fur-
nished the supervision in applying the poison.
In 1938 alone 41,000 gallons of black-strap molasses,
12,000 gallons of sweet syrup, and 69,000 pounds of
poison were used to "mix the cocktails." Approximately
20,000 acres of Sea-Island cotton were poisoned. The
poison is applied by pushing a mop, wet with the mixture,
down through the plants.
At a joint conference held at the University of
Florida in June 1940, Sea-Island cotton growers of
Georgia and Florida agreed that one of the best methods
of combating the boll weevil is by destroying the stalks
as soon as the cotton is picked.

Throughout the rehabilitation program it was
stressed that Sea-Island cotton cannot be overproduced.
Because of peculiar soil and climatic requirements found
only in the coastal plains sections of the southeastern
United States, the long staple variety can be grown only
in this limited area. Furthermore, it is not subject to the
Federal Government cotton control provisions.
Sea-Island cotton is used in the manufacture of fine

The Story of Sea-Island Cotton

dress goods, thread, laces, hosiery, and fabrics needed in
national defense, such as balloon cloth, and parachute
Especially is there an increasing demand in the con-
sumption of long staple for cloth used in aeronautical in-
dustries, where the question of price is entirely secondary
to the question of length and strength of lint.
The following quotations are taken from Boston,
Massachusetts market reports of March 1, 1935:
Sea-Island cotton (imported) 1'Y inches in length,
40 to 42 cents per pound (duty paid).
Egyptian Saka-the nearest competing cotton-
261/, cents per pound (duty paid).
Pima No. 2-231/. cents.
American Middling Upland--1/s inches-15 cents.

Department of Agriculture

The following statistical report on Sea-Island Cotton was issued
by the Florida Department of Agriculture, Tallahassee for 1937:




Yield (Bales)



One of the features of the "Afternoon Method of
Weevil Poisoning" is that only about three hours with-
out rain are required after the poison is applied to kill
practically all weevils in the field. During a wet summer
in Florida it is entirely practical to kill all weevils that
have survived the winter without permitting any of them
opportunity to deposit eggs for the first weevil genera-
tion. No other method of weevil control has ever offered
such advantages.

George D. Smith, entomologist, one of the Sea-Island
Cotton Control Program committee, issued a series of
"Don'ts" to growers, some of which follow.

"DON'T plant large acreages of Sea-Island cotton
until you have grown at least one crop under weevil con-
"DON'T plant more Sea-Island acreage than your
family can harvest. In the case of the average one-horse
farmer, this will approximate four to six acres.
"DON'T plant poorly drained lands or lands that
are totally unadapted to cotton culture, and then expect
the poison program to make your crop. It can't do the
impossible. Plant Sea-Island well away from weeds or
swamps and other good weevil hibernation quarters.
"DON'T plant inferior seed or seed known to be
contaminated with upland cotton. Get certified seed.
"DON'T use excessively heavy applications of fer-
tilizer. Fertilizers with excessive nitrogen content will
produce too much stalk growth. About 300 to 400 pounds
*For details concerning experimentation and results in weevil con-
trol. fertilizer and spacing tests, as well as recommendations for plant-
ing. cultivation and harvesting under the Sea-Island Cotton Control
Program. see Florida Deoartment of Agriculture Bulletins "Sea-Island
Cotton in Florida" Report of WPA (1937). and "Growing Sea-Island
Cotton under Florida Conditions" Report of WPA (1938).

Department of Agriculture

of well balanced fertilizer per acre plus a side dressing
of nitrate of soda of about 75 pounds per acre will pay
handsomely. A mixture of phosphoric acid, cottonseed
meal, and kainit will give profitable results. If excessive
leaching of fertilizer from heavy rainfall occurs during
the early growing season, side applications of at least 100
pounds of a 9-0-12 or 9-0-15 mixture will give good re-
"DON'T plant Sea-Island cotton late. In weevil in-
fested areas the crop must be planted during the first
ha!f of March. If it becomes necessary to replant and
this operation cannot be done until April, plant the land
to some other crop. Remember the crop must be matured
by the date of the annual weevil migration-about July
15th. Success in growing Sea-Island cotton in Florida
depends mainly on early planting and the successful
poisoning of the over-wintered weevils.
"DON'T plant Sea-Island cotton without some fer-
tilizer under it, as it is most important to get the plants
up and growing as quickly as possible in order to produce
a profitable crop before the annual summer migration of
the weevil.
"DON'T cover the seed more than one inch at plant-
ing time. It is better to have the seed half covered than
covered too deep.
"DON'T let the young cotton go backward or turn
yellow and get off-color. When young plantlets show
off-color or a general slowdown in growth, stimulate with
about fifty pounds of nitrate of soda per acre.
"DON'T fail to leave ample plants on the ground
at thinning or chopping time. Two plants at about 16- to
18-inch intervals on thin soils and 22- to 24-inch intervals
on heavy soils in four-foot rows appears to be about the
proper spacing.
"DON'T fail to have on hand ample supplies of cal-

The Story of Sea-Island Cotton

cium arsenate and molasses well in advance of the date
of the first poison application.
"DON'T fail to begin the weekly poisoning or mop-
pings when the plants reach the "pre-square" stage, that
is, when plants have about ten leaves, or the week before
the first squares appear.
"DON'T wait until after weevils have punctured
squares to start the weekly poison program. If the poison
kills all the over-wintered weevils, the egg-infested
squares will soon hatch out another supply of adults.
"DON'T delay any of the weekly poison applications
on the theory that all weevils have been killed. Keep
poisoning until June 12-14 in fields where no moss cov-
ered timber occurs and until June 18-20 in fields where
moss covered timber is nearby.
"DON'T permit last year's stubble plants to put up
sprouts or fruiting branches, as an early weevil genera-
tion will mature and migrate to the cultivated poison
fields about June 15.
"DON'T expect profitable crops of Sea-Island cot-
ton where the poisoning operation is only half done. It
has been proved that all over-wintered weevils will be
eradicated if the poison operation is started on time and
properly carried out.
"DON'T permit a single weevil to be in your field
at the end of the poisoning season. If, for any unknown
reason, an infested spot is found in the field, flag the lo-
cation, go back to it at least two or three times during
each week and gather all infested squares. At the time
the spot is located, poison a circle about 100 feet in all
directions from the infested spot in order to kill the
female weevil.
"DON'T fail to take advantage of weather condi-
tions during the poisoning season. If your poison date
falls on Wednesday and indications point to rain on that

Department of Agriculture

day, poison on Tuesday, or at a six-day interval. It is
much better to be a day ahead with the poison schedule
than a day late.
"DON'T miss an application during the poisoning
season and expect good weevil control. Allowing the
cotton to go two weeks between poison operations will
nearly always defeat the poison program.
"DON'T expect to control migratory weevils under
Florida weather conditions. The rainy season usually be-
gins about July 1, and lasts for four to six weeks. The
annual summer weevil migration usually starts from un-
poisoned cotton fields about July 15. Under such long, al-
most daily rainy seasons, neither dusting, spraying, nor
mopping will pay in the hands of the average farmer.
"DON'T dust young cotton plants. Buy both poison
and molasses, and use the poison-syrup mixture.
"DON'T leave poison, mops, and buckets where
children or livestock can get to them.
"DON'T fail to start harvesting when plants show
three to five open bolls per plant, as open Sea-Island
cotton deteriorates rapidly under field conditions.
"DON'T fail to dry harvested cotton in the sun for
at least four weeks before ginning. Drying and hbnd-
picking trash before ginning will insure better prices.
"DON'T sell cotton in the seed. Have it ginned, as
it will pay you handsomely.
"DON'T plant Sea-Island cotton in the southern edge
of the Florida belt without making provisions to poison
the cotton strainer.
"DON'T plant Sea-Island cotton seed south of a line
extending from the Melbourne area on the east to Hills-
borough County on the west, due to the possibility of in-
festation by the pink boll worm which infects the wild
cotton on the Florida Keys.


With the increase of baleage in 1938 more mills and
other cotton factors became interested in the revival of
the industry, resulting in spirited bidding for the yearly
While it is true that a great number of Sea-Island
varieties are late crops, plant breeders have found that
the long staple cotton can be developed into certain types
-such as early maturity and disease resistant-more
rapidly than upland cotton. In old days Sea-Island plant-
ers did not breed types for earliness, but for high quality
lint. For this reason, most of the varieties of pre-weevil
days were late. The breeding work now being conducted
has produced a long staple cotton maturing by August 1.
A citation of the experience of one farmer, I. G.
Pruitt, of Belleview, (Marion County) where he removed
from Colquitt County, Georgia, is from the Ocala Morn-
ing Banner of January 15, 1939: "I planted several kinds
of truck crops last year and lost money on all of them.
and this makes me appreciate Sea-Island cotton all the
more because it proved to be a lifesaver. I sold $1,400
worth, in addition to the seed that I carried home to
plant this year. I have the land already plowed for
twenty-five acres. I sold short cotton in Georgia for six or
seven cents a pound, but I received 261/2 cents for my
Sea-Island. No doubt it is the finest staple in the world.
"I began planting the first of March, and I find that
my earliest cotton yielded best. Two hundred pounds
per acre of a 4-8-4 complete fertilizer was drilled under
the row before planting and 100 pounds per acre of side
dressing was used at chopping time. The side application
was made by mixing nitrate of soda and kainit, equal
parts. I had a few rows where I doubled the amount of
side dressing and it certainly paid. I should have made
several hundred dollars more clear profit if I had
doubled this side application on the whole field.

Department of Agriculture

"I poisoned the boll weevil, as directed, and am
convinced that anyone who starts poisoning early enough
and does it thoroughly can control the weevil. I like the
cash market we have in Ocala for Sea-Island cotton. You
can bring your cotton in and get your money right now-
and at more than three times the price of ordinary kind
of cotton that I raised in Georgia. I am convinced that
Sea-Island cotton is the most profitable staple crop we
can grow here."
The original "Florida Sea-Island Cotton Law" was
amended by the 1937 and 1939 legislatures by the ori-
ginal sponsors, as situations arose and requirements de-
manded; among other things, giving the Commissioner
of Agriculture all necessary reasonable powers to pro-
mote the planting and production of Sea-Island cotton in
any county of the State, and to enforce and carry out the
provisions of the law in every respect.

These powers were technically listed as:
1. Make reasonable rules and regulations not incon-
sistent with the provisions of the original bill.
2. Institute in his name, such proceedings, either at law
or equity, in the courts of this State, as he may rea-
sonably deem necessary to enforce and carry out such
provisions, and the regulations made.
3. Appoint and fix the compensation of all necessary
agents or inspectors to carry out and enforce the pro-
4. Make, or cause to be made, all necessary surveys and
inspections in connection with the provisions.
5. Refer to proper officers charged with the enforce-
ment of the criminal or civil laws of this State, such
facts as may come to his attention concerning viola-
6. Make, or cause to be made, studies and investigations,
in any county in the State, that might aid in the in-
creased planting of Sea-Island cotton in this State,
and in the promotion of this industry in the State.

The Story of Sea-Island Cotton

The bill was further amended in 1939 by providing
for appropriations necessary to carry out, administer, and
enforce the proposed changes, namely: An appropriation
in the sum of $2,500 for the annual period ending June
30, 1939, in addition to the sum already appropriated;
and the sum of $25,000 for the annual period beginning
July 1, 1939, and ending June 30, 1940; and the sum of
$25,000 for the period beginning July 1, 1940, and end-
ing June 30, 1941. The Governor of the State approved
the new law May 10, 1939, and it was filed in the office
of the Secretary of State the following day.
The new provisional amendments to the original bill
gave the Commissioner of Agriculture a larger scope of
activity and sufficient funds to carry on the work to
greater advantage, authority to meet conditions in the
way of necessary inspection immediately, and to system-
atize the research and chronicle results.
One remarkable outcome of the program was the
effect on land values in the north Florida Sea-Island
cotton belt, where it was reported that many old time Sea-
Island cotton growers who moved to the citrus section
after the weevil destroyed the industry began making
arrangements to return home and grow cotton under crop
control conditions. It was reported choice farms were
in demand with prices steadily rising.
Another result observed was that the planting of
Sea-Island cotton is helping to solve a sociological prob-
lem. Since the acreage that may be planted is large, plant-
ers are turning to this crop to furnish employment for
tenant farmers and sharecroppers, taking them off gov-
ernment relief, and incidentally making a profit from
lands that would otherwise remain idle.
On March 31, 1940 Commissioner Mayo announced
that the 1939 crop of Sea-Island cotton amounting to 2,-
000 bales had been marketed at an average price of 37
cents a pound, and that approximately 12,000 acres had

Department of Agriculture

been planted for the next crop, a scarcity of seed pre-
venting the planting of a larger acreage. A survey by
the Agricultural Extension Service of the University of
Florida indicated plantings of Sea-Island cotton in 44
counties with the largest acreage plantings in Lake,
Marion, Madison, and Columbia counties.
Under a special Act of the 1939 Legislature the
State gave five pounds of poison per acre to the farmers,
and with the assistance of the Work Projects Adminis-
tration distributed this throughout the area, and also
assisted the Extension Service in guiding the farmers in
its use and other necessary practices.
In the beginning, there was some trepidation re-
garding co-operation from mills and manufacturers mak-
ing use of the available stocks of Sea-Island cotton, but
this concern has now abated. It is estimated that during
the decline of Sea-Island cultivation in the United States,
approximately 200,000 bales of Egyptian cotton were
imported annually, but domestic mills prefer the Sea-
Island variety, as its fine fibre and extreme length make
a much finer looking and stronger yarn. For extra quali-
ty thread yarn, for fine laces, and certain newly de-
veloped specialty fabric yarns, no other cotton can take
its place. The chief interest of the trade, however, is
the permanency of the rehabilitation movement, and this
seems assured both in results in agricultural production
and financial returns to the planters.
The U. S. Government's "preparedness program"
dips deep into the Sea-Island cotton crop for aeronautical
requirements. United States Senator Charles 0. Andrews,
of Florida, urged the Government to purchase all avail-
able Sea-Island cotton and take immediate steps to ac-
quire the current crop for use in making parachutes, as
well as fuselage for light planes.
Records show that in 1917 the U. S. War Department
purchased approximately 12,000 bales for aviation pur-

The Story of Sea-Island Cotton

poses. Less cotton is used in the construction of the aver-
age plane now than in 1917, but the vastly increased
importance of military aviation and larger production
offsets that loss many times over.

From this it would seem that while the production
and sale of Sea-Island cotton is of importance to Florida,
it would be of even greater importance to the Nation as
a whole.
In 1940 the week beginning May 17, was designated
as "National Cotton Week," and Florida's participation
resulted in some unusual exhibits in an endeavor to bring
before the people of this State the importance of increas-
ing their purchase of cotton goods.
The National Cotton Council, active for some time in
promoting the domestic consumption of cotton, succeeded
in increasing the amount of the staple manufactured and
used in the United States.
Some interesting facts released by the Brookings In-
stitution as a result of study of the economics of the South
show that efficiency gains made since the early 1920's
in the cotton textile industry are reaching consumers in
price savings amounting to $172,000 annually. Produc-
tive gain per man-hour in cotton textiles between 1923-24
and 1936-37 amounted to 40 per cent, giving the con-
sumer 50 per cent more for his money at the end of the
period than at the beginning.
That these agencies are producing activity in the
cotton market is indicated by the report of a record pur-
chase on July 6, 1940, by a Tifton, Georgia, buyer of 600
bales of Sea-Island cotton that was from 26 to 28 years
old, and had been carefully stored and was in prime con-
At a meeting of the Florida Market Managers and
Advisors in Jacksonville the latter part of June 1940,
William L. Wilson, Superintendent of Florida State Mar-

Department of Agriculture

kets, stated that while conditions in Europe and their
outcome would undoubtedly affect American agriculture,
he felt certain the cotton crop would still be important,
and the growing of Sea-Island cotton especially so. He
also considered it fortunate that Florida had a system of
State-owned and operated markets, where farm products
could reach buyers rapidly and cheaply.
In one of the largest State Farmers' Markets at Holly
Hill (Daytona Beach) Mr. Wilson has established a
weaving unit, where those interested learn to weave with
Sea-Island cotton thread, or may purchase hand-woven
men's ties, towels, luncheon sets, table covers, handbags,
and other useful articles. The unit has been successful in
creating a demand for this Florida product.
The WPA weaving unit established at Pensacola in
1938 co-operated with the Florida Sea-Island Cotton Bu-
reau in conducting experimental work with the long-
staple product. With the assistance of the city commis-
sion, a small acreage was planted from which three bales
were obtained.

The seed is picked out by hand, the cotton is combed,
and the thread spun on an old fashioned spinning wheel.
Barks, shrubs, and other native vegetation are used to
produce dyes necessary to convert the raw material into
products which modern usage requires. Experiments are
made in various twists of yarn to develop textures and
In a comprehensive report of the part the WPA is
taking in assisting in the rehabilitation program, the
Florida WPA Information Service, under date of June
15, 1940, gives the following summary:

"Since the WPA Sea-Island cotton project was
launched in 1935 by Madison County, production of this
long staple has increased from approximately 160 bales
with an estimated value of $16,000 to a 1940 crop esti-

The Story of Sea-Island Cotton

mation that places total production around 5,000 bales,
with a value of $650,000.
"In five years, this WPA project sponsored by the
Florida Department of Agriculture, assisted by the Flor-
ida Experiment Station and the Agricultural Extension
Service of the University of Florida, has brought Sea-
Island cotton from agricultural obscurity to a place that
bids to return this 'Aristocrat of the Cotton Family' to its
former high estate Approximately 20 roller gins that
were idle in Florida have been reconditioned to handle
Sea-Island cotton, and are now paying their owners
In an article captioned from New Bedford, Massa-
chusetts, in the June 15, 1940, issue of the Cotton Trade
Journal, of New Orleans, the following quotations were
given on the season's cotton:
"Correct nominal quotations on middling prompt
shipment cotton, classed on Government grade and staple
standards based on July futures, f. o. b. New Bedford,
"Seven-eighths inch, 175 to 195; 15-16 inch, 190 to
210; 31-32 inch, 200 to 215; one-inch, 220 to 250; 1 1-32
inch, 235 to 240; 1 1-16 inch, 265 to 280; 1 3-32 inch, 300
to 325; 1 1-6 inch, 375 to 400; 1 5-32 inch, 475 to 500;
1 3-6 inch 650 to 700; 1 7-32 inch, 725 to 775; 1-14 inch,
800 to 850."

Department of Agriculture



St. Johns

In 1940 the first open bolls were noted in Marion
County on July 24, the crop being later than that of the
preceding year due to exceptional weather during Janu-
ary and February, and to an early spring drought.

The first bale of Sea-Island cotton for which the
grower received 40 cents a pound, was ginned at Ocala,
August 9, 1940. The county agricultural agent estimated
production in Marion County at not less than 500 bales
for the year, and the same amount for Lake County.
Farmers in the latter county formed an association and
decided to hold their crop for a minimum price of 34
cents a pound for Grade 1. They further agreed that
members were to plant only certified seed to protect the
strain, and that its price should not exceed $2.50 a
*William L. Wilson, 1406 Barnett Bank Building, Jacksonville,
Florida, October 14, 1940.

The Story of Sea-Island Cotton

Putnam County had 750 acres planted in Sea-Island
cotton in 1940, estimates tripling this acreage for 1941.
Planters in this county displayed individual stalks each
containing an average of 450 bolls. One ginnery in Ocala
ginned 15 bales in one day in September 1940, and re-
ported shipping a consignment of Sea-Island cotton
valued at $25,000 in November. This is said to have been
the largest single shipment of the long staple variety
since the production was revived in 1934. Two carloads
were sold to a large thread manufacturing company in
New York which had been using Egyptian cotton almost
The State Department of Agriculture has arranged
with a number of newspapers of the State to publish daily
market prices quoted at the gins in Ocala and Leesburg.
Dr. M. N. Walker, plant pathologist of the Florida
Agricultural Experiment Station in charge of the Sea-
Island cotton investigations of the Leesburg laboratory,
states that although the crop has not yet approached its
former importance as a source of income for Florida
farmers, it is gaining in stability as a cash crop.
"The permanence and stability of the Sea-Island
cotton program rests first upon its profitableness," he
said, "and this in turn depends squarely upon the ability
of Florida growers to turn out a high quality staple that
will maintain an increasing demand for it."
Since the inception of the project, there has been an
increased yield on less acreage, and he declares that
scientific co-operation with a select group of agricul-
turists in 1940, produced one of the finest crops of Sea-
Island cotton from a sharply restricted acreage in the
long history of the State.
The first bale of Sea-Island cotton ginned in the
State in 1941 sold at Leesburg on August 6 for one. dollar
a pound. A shortage of raw silk and Egyptian long staple
in the United States was given as the reason for this

Department of Agriculture 55

premium price. Sea-Island cotton can be used in many
ways as a substitute for silk, and growers estimated that
excellent returns would be received for the entire crop.
While the total Florida acreage planted to the long staple
in 1941 was 15,500, unfavorable weather conditions in
the northern part of the State during the growing season
prevented a maximum production from the plantings.
Continued efforts are being made to insure a pure
seed supply for the future. The Florida Sea-Island Cotton
Ginners' Association, members of which ginned more than
70 per cent of the 1940 crop, requested State cotton con-
trol officials to inspect and list all fields having 40 or
more off-type plants per acre. The organization further
urged that seed from such fields be disposed of in oil
mills, to prevent it from being used in planting.


B. C. 500 Cotton known in India.
A. D. 800 Cotton known in Mexico and Peru.
1492 Columbus finds cotton growing in West Indies.
1563 Cotton plants probably brought into U. S. by
slave traders from Africa.
1642-1706 Type founded by Linnaeus (botanist) as
Gossypium (Mallow family).
1763-83 English Colonial period of Florida history in
which Sea-Island cotton flourished.
1780's This hybrid seed shipped to plantation owners
along the South Carolina and Georgia coastal
1781 Adaptability of Florida soils and climate to
growing of cotton reported to Spanish Crown.
1788 First bale of Sea-Island cotton exported by
Alexander Bisset, of Sapelo Island, Georgia.
1790 Sea-Island cotton sold at Hilton Head, S. C.,
for 10 and one-half pence per pound by Wil-
liam Elliott.
1805 Hugh Wilson sold two bags of Sea-Island cot-
ton for $2 a pound, probably highest price
ever received for this staple.
1806-16 Prices vary from 25 cents to 47 cents a pound.
1823 Settlers from Bahamas cultivate Sea-Island
cotton along the Tomoka River.
1830-33 Settlers coming into Orange County plant
Sea-Island cotton.
1837 Apalachicola ships 50,000 bales annually.
Cotton shipments from St. Joe total 100,000
to 150,000 bales annually.

Department of Agriculture

1856 First textile mill in Florida established at
1860 Slave ship Wanderer brings prize seed from
first World's Fair in London, developed by
South Carolina planters as Sea-Island seed
type Gordon-A.
1864 Federals seize quantities of Sea-Island cotton
on Florida plantations during War between
the States.
1870-79 Sea-Island continues as staple crop in Florida.
1882 Lake City ships 3,018 bales of Sea-Island.
1900 Alachua County Sea-Island cotton receives
medal for "Highest Award Merit" at Paris
Exposition in competition with cotton from
all parts of the world.
1915 Boll weevil invades Florida Sea-Island cotton
1924 Production of Sea-Island cotton practically
discontinued due to ravages of boll weevil.

1934 Florida cotton farmers become interested in
revival of Sea-Island cotton culture.
1935 Senate Bill No. 479 passes Legislature known
as Florida Sea-Island Cotton Law, authorizes
initial steps in rehabilitation.
1937 WPA co-operation.
"Boll Weevil Cocktail Hour"-afternoon
method of poisoning introduced by George D.
Smith, Entomologist.
1939 Florida State Legislature increases scope of
original Sea-Island Cotton Law by amend-
ments and makes additional appropriations.

The Story of Sea-Island Cotton

1940 March 31-Nathan Mayo, Florida Commis-
sioner of Agriculture, predicts approximately
12,000 acres to be planted this year.
U. S. Government's "preparedness program"
requires Sea-Island cotton for aeronautical
May 17-National Cotton Week.
July-National Cotton Council, (Memphis)
creates new demands for cotton.
Weaving unit established in Holly Hill Farm-
ers' Market (Daytona Beach.)
Weaving Unit, Pensacola, Florida, P and S
Division WPA.
July 23-First bolls of Sea-Island cotton open
in Marion County fields.
August 9-First bale of Sea-Island cotton
ginned at Ocala sells at 40 cents per pound.
September 10-Commissioner of Agriculture,
Nathan Mayo, makes arrangements to have
quotations on Florida Sea Island cotton pub-
lished in State newspapers.
1941 August 6-First bale of Sea-Island cotton
ginned at Leesburg sells for $1 a pound.

Brooks, A. M. The Brooks' Transcripts Relating to Florida, Copied from
the Spanish Archives in Seville, Spain, by Miss A. M. Brooks.
Manuscript Division, Library of Congress, Washington. D. C. Vol-
ume III, under date of June 30, A. D. 1668. Transl. by Mrs. Annie
Brooks, E. C. The Story of Cotton, Chicago, New York, Rand-McNally.
Burkett, C. W. Cotton New York, Doubleday, Page & Co., 1906. 331 pp.
Burlin, Natalie Curtis (rec.) Negro Folk Songs, New York, Boston, G.
Schirmer, 1918, 4 vols.
Crawford, M. D. C. The Heritage of Cotton, New York, London, Grosset
& Dunlap, 1924. 244 pp. Illus.
Dickison, Mrs. Mary Elizabeth Dickison and His Men: Reminiscences
of the War in Florida. Louisville, Ky., Courier-Journal Job Print-
ing Co., 1890, 265 pp. front Illus. ports.
Federal Emergency Relief Administration, A History of Jefferson County,
Pub. by the Kiwanis Club, Monticello, Florida, 1935.
Florida State Department of Agriculture, A Graphic Review of Florida
Agriculture, Bulletin 99, Tallahassee, 1938. Growing Sea-Island Cot-
ton Under Florida Conditions, (report of WPA State-wide Boll
Weevil Poison Program for 1938). Tallahassee.
Florida History, Topography, Climate, Soil, Resources and Natural
Advantages, Tallahassee, 1904.
Sea-Island Cotton in Florida, Bulletin 82. Tallahassee, 1937.
The Story of the Revival of Sea-Island Cotton, Tallahassee, 1940.
Federal Writers' Project (WPA). Florida, A Guide to the Southernmost
State, New York, Oxford University Press, 1939. 600 pp. Illus. Maps.
Hunter, W., and Hinds, W. E. Mexican Cotton Bolt Weevil, United
States Department of Agriculture, Bureau of Entomology, Bulletin
51, Washington, Government Printing Office, 1905.
Johnson, Gulon Griffis A Social History of the Sea-Islands, Chapel
Hill, N. C., University of North Carolina Press 1930. 255 pp. Illus.
Lomas, John A. and Allen, eds. Negro Folk Songs, New York, Macmillian,
1936. 242 pp. Illus.
McLean, A. W. "Sea-Island Cotton," in Volume III, Makers of Amer-
ica, A. B. Caldwell, ed. Atlanta, Ga. Patronage of Florida Historical
Society, 1909.
Simmons, Dr. W. H. Notices of East Florida with an Account of the
Seminole Nation of Indians Charleston, S. C., A. E. Miller, printer.
1822, 105 pp.
Stowe, Harriet Beecher Palmetto Leaves, Boston, J. R. Osgood & Co.,
1873. 321 pp. Illus. front, maps.
Todd, John A. The World's Cotton Crops, London, A. & C. Black, Ltd.,
1915. 460 pp. Illus., maps.
Vignoles, Charles Observations upon the Floridas, New York, E. Bliss
and E. White. 1823. 197 pp.
Watt, Sir George The Wild and Cultivated Cotton Plants of the World,
New York, Longmans, Green and Co., 1907, 406 pp. Illus. (Col.